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Friday, 28 June 2013 - Sea Ice for Walrus Outlook

Weekly Outlook

28 June 2013
Assessment of Current Ice Conditions Relevant to Distribution and Access of Walrus: 

Near St. Lawrence Island

St. Lawrence Island is completely sea ice free with the open water edge located roughly 70 miles to the north of the island.

Wales to Shishmaref

The seasonal melt has continued in the southern Chukchi Sea this past week. The Bering Strait and southern Chukchi Sea up to roughly 69.5 degrees north are mainly open water. No shorefast ice remains along the coastline from Wales to Shishmaref. The ice remaining consists of open to very open pack ice stretching up to 15 miles off the coastline. Bays and waters within the barrier islands are open water.

5 to 10 Day Forecast

A low-pressure system over the Chukchi Sea will bring southerly winds of 25 to 30 mph (20 to 25 knots) on Friday, 28 June. On Saturday, 29 June, the low will move over the northern Beaufort Sea as high pressure builds over the north slope of Alaska and southern Beaufort Sea through Sunday, 30 June. A large low will move into the Bering Sea late Sunday, passing over the Bering Strait Monday, 1 July and continuing over the East Siberian Sea Tuesday, 2 July, bringing southerly flow of 30 to 40 mph (25 to 35 knots) through the Bering Strait. A weaker low will pass over St. Lawrence Island Thursday, 4 July and remain over the Bering Strait region through Sunday, 7 July. Dominant winds out of the south during this forecast period will dramatically reduce the remaining sea ice along the coast and aid in shifting the ice further offshore from Wales to Shishmaref.

St. Lawrence Island wind direction and speed
Map of 10-day outlook of wind conditions
Bering Strait wind direction and speed

Arrows show wind direction and wind speed in mph

Remote Sensing Images

Bering Strait
St. Lawrence Island
Wales to Shishmaref

Observations and Comments

Observations of Sea Ice Development: 
End-of-Season Comments

Curtis Nayokpuk, Shishmaref

There was still scattered ice pack in Shishmaref at the end of June. On 27 June, hunters reported that the ice 20 miles west was packed and they could not get in to hunt young oogruk. Some are still seeing walrus "swimmers" in groups reported in the hundreds, 3-6 miles further out in open sea and presumably on the Wales to Kiviaina-Pt. Hope migration line in the main current. No walrus are hauling out on the remaining ice west of Shishmaref, and one boat towed a walrus six miles to butcher on ice. When weather permitted, hunting was good (concentration of game following ice north) and most hunters caught what they needed, but some were late due to poor conditions.

As a result some drying racks are still full (most well past dry stage and waiting on natural rendering of seal oil) at the beginning of July, and they have to worry about spoilage due to warm temps and rain. Shishmaref's coastal location was favorable for cool breeze off the ocean, but summer winds have shifted to S-SE very warm winds off the mainland (bringing swarms of blood suckers). The high temperatures are not good for seal meat still on racks, and black flies are out so the work is like watching the fish dry, and cleaning the just layed larva each hour.

Hunters try to harvest early (traditionally with dogs, now snowmobiles) and go after walrus and young oogruk with boats. With the temperatures and weather conditions changing, the need to hunt early is even more crucial to avoid late season problems on food prep. Additionally, we set salmon nets along the beach line for the first salmon run (to avoid floating chunks of ice) and when walrus hunts are successful earlier in the season, the drying racks are clear of seal to make room for fish.

Vera Metcalf, Eskimo Walrus Commission

At the end of June, hunters in Gambell expressed concerns about the low walrus harvest during spring hunting due to constant northerly winds and ice locked in Gambell's south-side beach. Savoonga also expressed concerns about low walrus harvest. It will be good to look back to see wind and ice conditions for the 2013 season and verify/compare against future conditions.

Update on ice conditions in Anadyr Gulf

27 June 2013 - Hajo Eicken, University of Alaska Fairbanks

While waters around St. Lawrence Island in the surrounding Bering Sea are mostly ice-free, some remnant ice remains in Kresta Bay in the northwestern corner of Anadyr Gulf. The MODIS satellite scene below from a couple of days ago shows the remnant shorefast ice cover, most likely in an advanced stage of decay. As pointed out earlier by local experts in Gambell (Paul Apangalook and the late Leonard Apangalook, Sr.), this Siberian ice is typically the last ice at the end of the season to come by St. Lawrence Island. Game animals such as walrus or bearded seal are typically absent from this ice. While break-up of Kresta Bay ice is late compared to a very unusual early break-up that we discussed in the SIWO in June of 2011, Igor Krupnik from the Smithsonian Institution has pointed out that historically, break-up and clearing of ice from the bay typically did not occur until much later in July. While some of this ice may make it out to St. Lawrence Island, most of it will likely melt in place.

26 June 2013 satellite image of Anadyr26 June 2013 satellite image of Anadyr